The disciplinary committee

I  may regret using up this title now if, one day in the future, I am actually called in to see the disciplinary committee about plagiarism or something. I mean hopefully I never end up being guilty of plagiarism; I’d never do it on purpose, but maybe I’d forget to reference something or reference it improperly or whatever.

No, this disciplinary committee has one member: me – and its job is to ensure that I get disciplined, which would include getting a healthy head start on my assignments instead of leaving them so last-minute that the danger of actually not referencing properly due to mental burnout is very real.

Also to ensure that my books get written. That’s a thing.

And thus we come to Nanowrimo and my progress with it, or lack thereof as the case may be.

I’m giving myself until tomorrow to get started with the actual writing, because I believe in recovering from stressful situations, and those last two essays constituted a pretty stressful situation between them. Not as stressful as last semester, but more than stressful enough – and it was all my own doing. The disciplinary committee is here to ensure that what becomes “my own doing” in the future is effective time-management and long-term planning, and then, like, actual execution of that long-term planning. Hence Nanowrimo, starting tomorrow, and actually today as well because I don’t have a draft plan and I kinda need one, like, now.

This is all according to my current Nano strategy of writing 3k words per day. If, starting tomorrow, I get 3k words in per day and hit that mark every single day – and as writing those last two essays showed me, I am certainly capable of that – then I’m set for a 70k-word zero draft by the end of Nano. Which seems like a good, solid number; it’s 10k less than my ideal, but it’s still pretty decent. I may not actually need 70k words to tell this story, let alone 80k.

Which brings me to the question: why bother with a word count at all? I mean I know that’s how Nano is set up, and I know that, from experience, a (malleable) word-count is a very useful motivator. But my good buddy Viola is writing her Nano novel scene-by-scene rather than trying to hit an arbitrary word-limit every day, and that sounds pretty good. Then there’s the legacy of this particular novel I’m trying to write: it’s my big soul-devouring teenage fantasy epic, restored to its former nonsensical just-have-fun glory plus imbued with all the stylistic and political drive I’ve acquired since I was 14 – and it’s the first zero draft I ever wrote.

And it got written because I planned out every single chapter, and stuck to that plan.

I don’t know how I did it, given my history of not being able to stick to a plan ever since then. But that may also have to do with the fact that, sine then, I haven’t made a plan to be stuck to in the first place. I’ve blathered on in dozens of Word documents about possibilities instead of putting my foot down and making a definitive decision, and then following it through to actually find out whether it’s for better or worse. And the one time I did it … well, I did it. It got done. I have this capacity, and I want to rediscover it again.

So rather than trying to hit 3k words per day, perhaps I’m better off trying to hit every stop along my narrative map by the end of November, however many – or few – words that actually requires. And that means having a pretty fucking comprehensive plan.

This could be a problem.

For one: it’s a comprehensive plan. If I want to get started writing tomorrow then I need to have that plan done today, and as I’ve only got another two hours to do that, seeing as I’m going to an end-of-semester party with my fellow feminist film theorists, there’s not a lot of time to fuck around with, only compounded by the fact that there are a lot of finicky bits in this story and I’m not at all sure what I want to do with all of them. But on the other hand, maybe that’s a good thing – it’s a time constraint! And as I’ve learnt, restrictions are conducive to making decisions and being creative.

On the other other hand, what I want is not so much creativity as solidarity, because this is a plan. A plan doesn’t have to be exciting to read; it just has to be accurate. And without knowing precisely what I want to do, this planning process is going to involve either a lot of making-shit-up-as-I-go-along, which is generally what I do and ends up taking a lot longer than two hours; or it’s going to be basic and restrictive and I may not actually want to write it once I’m done.

So, one possible option: wait until tomorrow when I actually have time to plan this story out properly. I only wanted to start today because of the “3k a day” plan, and that’s gone out the window now. Starting tomorrow would certainly be good in that it would give me an extra day to play with, but if I end up making a plan that sucks I may end up spending too much time going back to fix the plan as I encounter its flaws through the process of trying to stick to it. So at some point, I have to dedicate myself to making a good, solid plan.

But then again, why not use the two hours I have now to make a time-limited plan and see if it’s any good? I can still make a better plan tomorrow if I really want to; all that matters is that it gets made, and it’s possible that what I come up with in the next two hours actually works – in which case I get to spend tomorrow writing instead of planning.

And also because it gets me working, and that is the chief goal of the disciplinary committee: to get me into the habit of working. Therefore, two hours to draft up a plan sounds like the best possible decision I could make.

So I guess I’ll do that. The pantser will become a planner once again, and the circle will be complete.

Solving writing problems by writing about them. So meta.

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